A young lady may excel in speaking French and Italian; may repeat a few passages from the volume of extracts; play like a professor, and sing like a syren; have her dressing-room decorated with her own drawing tables, stands, flower pots, screens and cabinets; nay, she may dance like Semphronia herself, and yet we shall insist, that she may have been very badly educated.
I am far from meaning to set no value whatever on any or all of these qualifications; they are all of them elegant, and many of them tend to the perfecting of a polite education. These things, in their measure and degree may be done; but there are others which should not be left undone.
Many things are becoming, but “one thing is needful.”
Besides, as the world seems to be fully apprised of the value of whatever tends to embellish life, there is less occasion here to insist on its importance. But, though a well-bred young lady may lawfully learn most of the fashionable arts, yet, let me ask, does it seem to be the true end of education, to make women of fashion dancers, singers, players, painters, actresses, sculptors, gilders, varnishers, engravers, and embroiderers?
Most men are commonly destined to some profession, and their minds are, consequently, turned each to its respective object. Would it not be strange if they were called out to exercise their profession, or set up their trade, with only a little general knowledge of the trades and professions of all other men, and without any previous definite application to their own peculiar calling?
The profession of ladies, to which the bent of their instruction should be turned, is that of daughters, wives, mothers, and mistresses of families. They should be, therefore, trained with a view to these several conditions, and be furnished with ideas, and principles, and qualifications, and habits, ready to be applied and appropriated, as occasion may demand, to each of these respective situations.
Though the arts; which merely embellish life, must claim admiration, when a man of sense comes to marry, it is a companion whom he wants, and not an artist. It is not merely a creature who can paint and play, and sing, and draw, and dress, and dance: it is a being who can comfort and counsel him; one who can reason, and reflect, and feel, and judge, and discourse, and discriminate; one who can assist him in his affairs, lighten his cares, soothe his sorrows, purify his joys, strength his principles, and educate his children. Such is the woman who is fit for a wife, a mother, and a mistress of a family.
From Mrs. Ware’s Magazine.
Collection: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Publication: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Date: December, 1830
Title: Female Education
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania